Dale Bordelon is a gifted storyteller from Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana. In last week’s episode (Episode 39, August 3, 2020, Dale Bordelon Bayou Traditions), Bordelon described gathering various local raw materials from nearby swamps, hand-making his Louisiana cane calls and other tools-of-the-trade as tribute to his roots; to Louisiana’s traditional waterfowling culture. In today’s Duck Season Somewhere podcast episode, we crawl belly deep into tepid, tea-colored swamp water. Bordelon describes trapping dinosaur-like alligator snappers the size of chest freezers, catching monster alligators, shooting old shotguns, blending duck blinds perfectly into the environment and more. Where’d Dale get the twine to wrap a special cane call he uses? How’d he catch those big, old snappers, what’d he do with them, and why did he quit? What’s his secret for catching BIG gators? Why does he like shooting pump shotguns from his grandad’s era? It’s another great episode depicting unvarnished Louisiana duck hunting culture.
Dale Bordelon of Avoyelles Parish: Part 2
Ramsey Russell: I’m your host Ramsey Russell. Join me here to listen to those conversations. Folks, welcome back. I’m down here in Louisiana for round two with Mr. Dale Bordelon of Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana talking about the old ways down in Louisiana. We’ll start the show off telling you all this. Years ago, I had my first podcast ever with Rocky Leflore. I talked about my upbringings, my childhood in Greenville, Mississippi. And one of the things I did, I guess some people picked up tin cans, I didn’t. I caught snapping turtles, little old bitty snapping turtles, 5-10 pounds. And I would sell them at the fish market for 40 cents a pound. And look for an 8-9-10 year- old kid, I was rich. $20 a week catching turtles, I thought I’d done something. And my hero back in those days was a man named Snapper there in Greenville, Mississippi. The old man was missing a thumb because he used to catching big turtles. Back with big axe bows, he is catching big old turtles and wrestling them down in a Croker sack, and he was making real money selling them things back in the day. And that was my childhood hero. I hunted with Dale, Forrest and I did it couple years ago. And we were there and he’s had a lot of these turtle shells, a lot of great big snapping turtle head. And I’m talking big as the Folgers coffee can, snapping turtle heads. And I just thought that’d be a good topic. I don’t know, a couple of months ago, right about the start of COVID, I got a call from a client. This client has been all over the world hunting all kinds of critters. He said, man, I need some help. I said, what you need? He says, I need you to help me find somebody that hunts big snapping turtle. I said well, I know who I’m going to call. He goes who? I said, my buddy Dale Bordelon. Dale, you know a little bit about these turtles, don’t you?
I used to clean them turtles, and weigh them, and freeze them, and I’d sell them.
Dale Bordelon: Well, I think yeah. My daddy used to catch them and I’ve been fooling with most of my life. When I was about 17 years old. They used to have supper once a week at the old camp, and we eat a lot of turtles. People started losing out you eat a lot of turtle. And I used to trap turtles. I had some cages. Now this is mostly common snappers. And occasionally I caught loggerhead turtles.
Ramsey Russell: What’s the difference?
Dale Bordelon: The common snapper doesn’t get more than about, I say, an average of 25-30 lbs. That’s a big turtle. Mostly around 10-15 lbs. Very, very edible. Very, very good eating. The alligator snapping turtle, which we call loggerheads, oh man, I know a fella had one 200 lbs. But biggest they get, I guess 150 lbs. pushing the biggest. They get real big. I’ve caught several over 100 lbs.
Ramsey Russell: How would you catch those? When you say a trap, how were you catching them?
Dale Bordelon: Well, I had a wire trap. That old hog two by four Squire Hog wire. The old Hog wire, it was tied wire. Not the ones you get now because they’re not durable no more. This is the old one. When they used to make the old fences, we make a Squire trap like 4 foot long, 2.5 – 3 foot wide. We had a big flow in the middle. Long water trap and a door on top would get the turtles out. And I’d go fishing and I put them out. Some of it sticking out, some under the water. If you got alligators, you got to put it under the water. Alligator is not going to get in there for the majority of the time. If you put it out of the water, he’ll get an entire trap up. And I used to put that all over the bodies of water along where I was raised, and I had a freezer full of meat. I had an old scale from the Piggly Wiggly store. A friend of mine work that gave me one of those spring scales. I used to clean them turtles, and weigh them, and freeze them, and I’d sell them. Whoever wanted turtles I’d sell them. I had a big supply for us. We make this big supper with this old man and people did that back then a lot.
How to Clean and Cook Turtle
And it just takes two hours to cook, just like ducks, a squirrel, and very good eating.
Ramsey Russell: How do you even clean a turtle like it? I used to sell them when I was a child, but I don’t think I ever cleaned one.
Dale Bordelon: I’m going to tell you the best thing I’ll find. You shoot him in the head with a 22. If you kill a turtle and start cleaning it, he’ll claw you for hours, those nerves just keeps trying to get you. What I do, I shoot them in the head with a 22 and I throw them in ice chest on ice. The next day, I’ll clean them. They are dead. There’s no more nerves. And the first thing I do, I cut the feet off with a short knife and I just follow the shell with a good sharp knife around. I just hull them out. It’s not hard to do.
Ramsey Russell: Somebody told me one time that there were seven kinds of meat in a big old turtle like it.
Dale Bordelon: I’ve heard that all my life. Yeah. Russell, I’m going to tell you, I’ve been cleaning a lot of turtles, quite a lot of turtles. If you catch a loggerhead, alligator snapping turtle, if he’s about 30 lbs on up. What I do is I cut him, take the meat out with the bone, cut the neck, the neck is all white meat. A lot of meat on it. But you get to go by a sit, get you a good comfortable place and sit down. You can feel all that meat off of that bone. You won’t lose nothing versus trying to cut that big bone. If he’s 50-80 lbs. you de-bone them. And I’ll cut them in chunks, like eating chunks. And if you’re cooking the supper for 10 people, it takes 10 lbs of meat.
Ramsey Russell: No, no, let me back up.
Dale Bordelon: Yeah, 10 lbs of meat.
Ramsey Russell: A pound per person.
Dale Bordelon: Pound per person.
Ramsey Russell: How would you all cook it?
Dale Bordelon: We made some gravies. I will fry that down like you do a duck or squirrel. Just fry it really, really brown. This is how I like to cook it. I get a little Tasso. You know all what Tasso is, most of the people.
Ramsey Russell: I know what Tasso is.
Dale Bordelon: It’s the back end of a pork that have been smoked and marinated with all these good seasoning. Put that in anything. I like to take a look at a cube it real fine, fry that down with that turtle. It gives a little smoke flavor.
Ramsey Russell: So you’re in like one of these big black pot-
Dale Bordelon: Big black pot. I’ll use a big black pot.
Ramsey Russell: Put little grease in there with your turtle. And your Tasso, start frying it down.
Dale Bordelon: Fry it down real good. Until it gets good and brown like you do your duck squirrel, deer meat, anything. Then I put my onions and bell peppers, whatever you want to put. I put onions and bell peppers, celery, and fry it down. I’ll fry my meat down then I add that just before my turtle. I just fry the whole thing down. And then I put a little a little water to make my gravy and put whatever season I use. I’ll put a little roux. You can put instant roux, or roux out of jar, or make your own roux, either way you want to do it. Some people don’t put roux. I’ll put a little bit of roux in there. Brown gravy is good. I like to put a little tomato sauce just as coloring. Give a little tint. That’s the way I like it. Very, very good. Me and my partner cooked some over here. A lot of people haven’t eaten it. That’s why I know that. I took 10 lbs, a gallon zip lock bag over 10 lbs dressed. And I told my partner don’t invite no more than 10 people. Well, he did, we had 10 people and it was just enough to feed us all. But when they’re finished eating that, they had one person who said I’m not eating it. So I told him, eat whatever you want. He ended up eating two plates. Most of them who ate it they are going about hooking the next day and fishing that turtle. I’m telling the truth. They liked it so much. And it just takes two hours to cook, just like ducks, a squirrel, and very good eating.
The biggest one I ever caught was 125 lbs, a loggerhead.
Ramsey Russell: So you take that net or take your trap, baited up with some fish. How long would it take for turtle to get in there sometimes?
Dale Bordelon: It takes a couple of days. They smell under the water. They can smell that all film. But I would leave them on above because if we didn’t have alligators, because they can really smell it. And I would say a couple of days. It takes a lot of fun.
Ramsey Russell: What’s the biggest turtle you ever caught?
Dale Bordelon: The biggest one I ever caught was 125 lbs, a loggerhead.
Ramsey Russell: Is that his skull over there in the cabinet?
Dale Bordelon: No, I found that in the lake when it dried up.
Ramsey Russell: Folks, these turtle skulls literally are the size of a Folgers can. Probably wouldn’t fit in regular Folgers can, you have to get them in big plastic ones.
Dale Bordelon: In the year 2000, it had dried up. We was duck hunting, it hadn’t rained and it kept dropping, and dropping, and dropping. That was in January. So I went back and it dried up completely. I went hunting. So I went back in February with my two boys, they was little then. Just to look old decoys in front of blind, and my oldest boy said there is a big old turtle over here. So I went looked, it was about a 70 lbs loggerhead, and it hit me. I said that ought to be more than that. So we dug him up.
Ramsey Russell: Was it dead or alive?
Dale Bordelon: No, no, he was hibernating.
Ramsey Russell: Rolled up in the mud, just waiting it out.
Dale Bordelon: Right. But the thing about this was that had some big cracks. The clay was on his back. It was hot and I knew that turtle couldn’t survive that long, it was that hot. It was real hot. So we dug him up. There’s a place on our property that never dried up, and we bought them over there. So after that we went looked, we found five that one evening. Five big turtles.
Ramsey Russell: They’ve done buried up in the mud it had dried up and hardened so much they couldn’t move.
Dale Bordelon: This was from the hibernating because the clay had, you know how you’re looking at clay, bottom has big cracks in the ground? This was on top. The other place just like this for the head sticking up, you can see them, and it was cracked. I’m talking about there was about a foot underground. So we went, we dug up five of them, and brought them to safety. I went back for two weeks and search every part of that lake bed which is very hard because it’s full of Buttonwoods. Let me back up and tell you something. When I saw that first big turtle the first time, I thought it was my grandpa. When I looked at him, he was old and helpless and probably as old as my grandpa.
Ramsey Russell: They live to be a long time. I’ve heard.
Dale Bordelon: They live to be over 100 years old. But when I seen him, the first thing that I hit my mind was that he needs help. That’s why I did this and I went with my nephews, dive friends. We ended up finding 16 of them. They come help me. We spread out, we walked up on a big one. I’ll go looking and whenever you find one, there’s mostly two or three. They are in the same areas, hibernating. That’s what I witnessed. Every now and then we find one, we dug every one of them up and bought them out of the hot water. It was about two acres, and it was full of mud eels and fish all over. So I know they had planned to eat. After we did this, I went back about a month later, right in the middle where I hunted there was about a 100-lb one dead. And that tells me I saved them. The rest would have died. He couldn’t find water. It didn’t fill it back with water for 10 months after that.
Ramsey Russell: They died.
Dale Bordelon: They died. My boy caught one this year about 130lbs-140lbs.
Ramsey Russell: Caught him in the trail?
Dale Bordelon: No, he was swimming under by. He caught him by the tail and pulled him in the boat with his mama, his mama freaked out. But I guarantee that’s one that we caught 20 years ago.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Dale Bordelon: We’d see them from time to time so that I know we saved them, and it makes me feel good to know we did that. But the biggest I caught was 120. We weighed them a 125 lbs, I caught some 110 but five of them were more than 100 lb.
Ramsey Russell: And how much were you getting a pound for them when you sold?
Dale Bordelon: Oh, that was in the 70’s. Rough thing is I can’t hardly remember. It was less than a dollar. But I can’t remember exactly exact price. I would sell them whole. I wouldn’t clean them and sell. If I clean them, it’s going to my freezer. A lot of times I had a bunch of them, I just ran away and sell them whole, and it was less than a dollar. But I want to tell you back then, guys, is like 50 cents a gallon. $5 meant whatever you need. I mean, I’m not old like my dad or the old people but it’s a big difference back then. It didn’t cost a lot. So that’s all free money man. I bought shells with it and all.
Ramsey Russell: When I was a child catching the smaller ones like it. That’s the way I looked at it.
Dale Bordelon: Yeah, I enjoyed doing it. I like to just go see what I catch, you know.
Ramsey Russell: You had told me one time that you had a change of heart at some point time and just quit fooling with them old dinosaur turtles.
What Made Dale Stop Trapping Turtles?
I don’t do that no more. I guess age does that.
Dale Bordelon: When I saw that one that reminded me of my grandpa.
Ramsey Russell: It just changed your mind.
Dale Bordelon: I used to kill them turtles. And man, when I catch one 30-50 lb, I couldn’t wait to get home and kill them. Well, if I see one across the road, I’d like to get in a wreck trying to catch them. I don’t do that no more. I guess age does that. But when I see that big turtle half buried, and he was stuck, and he looked at me just as big as his eyes can be, it just hit me: he needs help. And that’s why we did this for two weeks. We rescued 16 of them, and you can look it up on YouTube. Dale Bordelon catching alligators, snapping turtles in the mud. And you see a 10 minute video of that. Now we settled our stuff and acted crazy on the film but that was 20 years ago. But it shows the big turtles we caught, and it shows them how there was hibernating and all.
Ramsey Russell: I mean they were massive. I’ve seen some pictures you posted up that time.
Dale Bordelon: We had the big red back then loaded down man, rolled them across the lake, dug them up bringing where they had, when we caught one of the top to the front that big red, I’d bring them across where they had water. We made I don’t know how many trips back and forth.
Watching a Wild Snapping Turtle Grow Up
Just one day I said, I’m going to see how many handfuls of dog food this turtle eats before it quits. It ate about 2 pounds of food.
Ramsey Russell: The natural history of those snapping turtles. I’ll tell you this, my youngest son Duncan, I don’t think you’ve met him yet. He’s over in Okinawa right now. But he caught one time and brought it home and it was about the size of a quarter. And I believe he probably caught that turtle from the time it hatched out of the egg before it got to water. It was tiny, and we put it in an aquarium. He had all kinds of little zoo experiments going on in our garage as a little boy, which is great and it grew to be about 2 lbs. I mean it was pretty sizable over the years. And I would walk out in a garage, there’s a big old aquarium back there, and I’d walk out in garage and that thing would stand up and I walked past, it would walk down the glass looking at me. And I go get a big handful of dry dog food and put it in there, and he’d gobble it down. And one day I just said, I wonder how much food he’ll getting down by the August, September. Some turtles all have been just gorging themselves, get ready to lay up for the winter like you said. Just one day I said, I’m going to see how many handfuls of dog food this turtle eats before it quits. It ate about 2 pounds of food. And I told Duncan, it’s time to let this turtle go. This turtle don’t belong in no cage. It’s time to let this old turtle go and do its thing. But as little boy fooling with turtles, I can remember when I would catch them. I just had a small little ditch there in Greenville, and I’d look, it was shallow water, it might be a foot or two. But if you look into still water you could see the imprint. What they would do is they would see it and they would back themselves back and forth, and they finally cover themselves up with mud. But they leave their head out and how they hunt is they open their mouth and a little old bitty turtle has got a tiny little old bitty pink tongue. There’s a fish that would swim up to get the bait, that long neck will come out and grab them. I can’t imagine how big or how much food a 100 pound turtle would eat. But I have seen them, a much smaller turtle bust a big stick. It’s got a business right there, don’t it? You never took one with a whole handle or nothing, did you?
Dale Bordelon: Hello. Well, we had Nationalgeographic.com video that did that at the camp. And we had a total of 200 lbs. My friend, my brother, and I caught that turtle down in South Louisiana and they made a jelly hand the consistency of a human hand, and they put that in his mouth just to see if he bit that thing too. And it wouldn’t spit it out. He held just to show that’s what happened to your hand. They put a broom stick in his mouth. He’s knob that thing like it’s a toothpick.
Ramsey Russell: That’s probably what happened to my childhood hero. He’s trying to get that turtle in a Croker sack, and it caught his thumb. Well he was hunting and they say he was hunting with traps. What he would do, as he push-poled on the back end of those oxbows early in the morning and late at night when they were out hunting and crawling around. And he would judge – he would describe to us – he would judge from the bubbles the width of the bubbles crawling, which end was the front, which end was the back and how big they were. And if they were big enough he had a big old long piece of conduit with a hook. He tapped him on the shell and then reached down and grabbed that little piece of bone right in front of the tail. Boom, he grabbed them, lifted them up. He was so busy making money. He picked his thumb up, put it in his pocket but by the time he got done working and got to the hospital, he couldn’t sew it on.
Dale Bordelon: He should have gone to the hospital.
Ramsey Russell: I guess he could catch them with nine digits quick as he could with 10. But I just find that very fascinating. That’s a big part of South Louisiana culture and those turtles and all those resources down there.
Which States Can You Hunt Turtles in Now?
They have turtle ponds, they’re hatching the young, and they’re raising them, and turning them back into the wild.
Dale Bordelon: Ramsey, I’m going to tell you something. I called out the Wildlife and Fisheries over here. They’re not on that. You still can hunt them in Louisiana.
Ramsey Russell: But not like it used to right?
Dale Bordelon: No, you used to be able to catch one, I’m sorry, catch four, and right now you can catch one. But I called and I talked to a fella, I ain’t going to mention names, about who got it changed and I asked them. Why is Texas, Arkansas, and I believe Mississippi, you can’t catch them. Why are they so heavily harvested in Louisiana? And there’s no protection and our states around us, you can’t fish them. Well, he told me when he went to state, the capital, he changed it from four to one a day. He said that if you have seen the commercial fisherman plus their senators, you know politics, if I would change, I’m scared if I went to take it all off, it would go back to 4. I’m scared to open arms. And honestly now, what he’s saying is they’re heavily fish in Louisiana and it’s all politics, and now they have turtles they’re not going to catch. But I got to give it to these people, that is the organizations that are hatching these turtles. They have turtle ponds, they’re hatching the young, and they’re raising them, and turning them back into the wild. It’s all over. I have several good friends doing this as we speak and they have videos. I’ve done it myself. I’ve hatched a bunch of eggs and raised them until they was about a pound I guess, and turned the whole bunch loose, and I hope they made it. But this is taking place. Now these people that do it just like to eat turtles. But they are conservationists just like Ducks Unlimited. They formed the organization and I got to take my hats off to them. I’m glad to see that.
Louisiana Alligator Hunting
What’s the biggest alligator you ever caught? 13 ft 2 inches.
Ramsey Russell: What about alligators, Dale? Because you’ve got some pretty big alligator heads around here too. Is that a big part of how you grew up and what you do down here?
Dale Bordelon: I’ve been fishing them for 34 years now, every year. And while we duck hunt, they’re very, very plentiful. And I’m hunting them to keep them tended, I guess you can say. And even if the process is bad, like this process was the worst I’ve ever seen it. It really didn’t pay to fish them, but I had to take some out and I tried to focus on the big ones. And what I mean is we have some big ones now, but I’ll put some bait real hard, like probably 4 or 5 ft up. And you might think that this fella’s crazy, but you’re going to eliminate them 5 and 6 footers. If them big, son of guns want to eat, they’re going to get their hunt and eat.
Ramsey Russell: Oh yeah, that’s a big, how big alligator it takes to reach 4 ft high up off water?
Dale Bordelon: About 7-8 ft. Last year I had about 8 ft average. That’s a good average.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. What’s the biggest alligator you ever caught?
Dale Bordelon: 13 ft 2 inches.
Ramsey Russell: How much does a 13 ft two inch alligator weigh a bunch?
Dale Bordelon: This one I caught, I didn’t weigh them, but probably was 700 lbs. I’ve caught a lot of 11, 11 something, 12, 12 something. One day they had an alligator, he got a black hog in his mouth swimming, and we were teal hunting. And I sank a line, when that line dragged up, I found seven alligator holes and there was a hole he was in. Whenever we’ve seen him, he’s got a pig in his mouth. That pig was about 100 lbs. We took it, we drug into the bank and put it in the woods. It didn’t have no hands left. The hand and legs, he had ate them already. I tried to get that gator for one week. And he never would bite. So I told my partner, my hunting buddy, David. I bought my seven millimeter and I told them I’ll put on my head boots. The closest tree to that spot was about 65 yards, I’d guess. Everybody went teal hunting that morning. We killed that teal but there’s a lot of traffic right there at the camp. So when we came home, I told David, let’s go back, just me and you. So he dropped me off at that spot, and he left, and he went back to the camp. As soon as I get here in the boat, he had gone back. He had just walked into camp to get a beer and I shot that gator that fast. As soon as he left, I was sitting behind a tree in the water, a little sorbus tree. And that gator popped his head up. I went to his head. Well, he was like, anyway, he was facing the other way from the hole, and I put it across the hose. I used the water line for that cross head I shot. He did that death roll, they roll and that leg steps up. I had to walkie-talkie. I said, David, come get him, I shot him and he said, you’re full of crap. I said, I’m telling you. He knows I don’t play around. So he came, I got a big pole, and the hook that I can feel, and I hook him. The body floats easier when they are like that in the water. But anyway, he was 12 ft two inches long, and that pig, that alligator had an about 100 pound hog. Can you imagine the fight? You know how tough those hogs are?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, well you know when Forrest and I hunted with you, we brought our dogs of course. And you said no, this ain’t the place to run a dog. You all don’t hunt with dogs out there, do you?
Dale Bordelon: Ramsey, this year in December and January I had an alligator steal my ducks. I’m telling you, December and January. I fought with one, I lost it, I fought with another and I got my duck back. But I’m talking about 7-8 ft gators.
Ramsey Russell: You picked out there in the pirogue too. I’ve seen you fishing ducks with a pirogue, you’re pretty quick.
Dale Bordelon: Yeah, but I can’t run them alligators. But I’m going to tell you I’m talking about 7-8 ft gators that was drawn to a dog.
Ramsey Russell: Oh yeah.
Dale Bordelon: The alligator draw on a human that big. And what they’ll do, they eat pieces of the dog. So you can’t trust – I don’t have dogs. There’s too many gators out there. And when it warms up in the winter, they’re still there. You know, you can’t depend on them. They said alligators don’t eat in winter, but I’m telling you whoever told you that was wrong because I’ve seen them eat in December and January.
Ramsey Russell: Probably got to do with something, whatever the ambient temperature is, at some point time and just kind of shut them down. They go and hibernate or whatever like it. But it stays pretty warm down here that time.
Dale Bordelon: Well, that’s what I’m saying, when it gets real mild and some days you can hunt with just a long sleeve shirt. That’s when they come out and they will feed, they’re not aggressive, but they’ll feed, they’ll eat on stuff.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I don’t need my lab getting eaten by an alligator.
Dale Bordelon: No. And I would feel bad forever if that happened.
Ramsey Russell: When we opened up the episode, you were blowing on a duck call and you were telling me about this particular call of yours, wife and I just love this kind of stuff. This morning you have the call we talked about last time. What’s special about this particular rig you got around your neck right now, Dale?
The Best Duck Calls – Made of Memories
So what I did, I took off the old string I had on his decoys and I incorporated it into my wrapping on my cane call.
Dale Bordelon: Ramsey, I’m going to tell you something. We used to have a cap. It’s a place called Red River Bay in the 70s, we hunted down for probably seven years. And right off the Red River, and I’d hunt with my wood pirogue, the one like you’re getting, the whole winter to just jump shooting. And me and David had a little blind, but we would put a trot line. We had a trot line to go across the Red River on the bottom, clean across, and then we put it parallel on the other. But that’s how long the trot line was. My dad had a trot line from the 1960s we were using, and I’m talking about the 70s, so it’s not that far off. Whenever we quit there, I’m very sentimental about all these things, and I can show you when we leave here. I put it all in the box, and I dug out his old trot line. Now this is the old trot line in the 60s was a heavy cotton string. You can see it.
Ramsey Russell: I can see it.
Dale Bordelon: So I took it. I cut a second off. I just found it a while back, but that is from the 60s. It was here. So I cut a section off and I made me a double lanyard for my duck call, a duck call lanyard, in memory of him. And I found his old decoy. He gave me decoys.
Ramsey Russell: Because you wrapped – just what I explained to you all – a lot of these cane calls have wrapping, like string wrapping around the base. I guess to keep it from splitting, or is it decorative or?
Dale Bordelon: No, it was to keep it. A lot of calls split. And it’s just to keep it intact. I’ll put that because of the heritage. And also you can put your lanyard on it. It holds it.
Ramsey Russell: What’s special about that wrapping right there? That piece of string wrap that you got around this call.
Dale Bordelon: This wrapping comes off a decoy my daddy had from the 1980s.
Ramsey Russell: He probably killed a couple of ducks over that.
Dale Bordelon: He killed a lot. And I killed some with them. But I cut it off. So what I did, I took off the old string I had on his decoys and I incorporated it into my wrapping on my cane call. And I used his old trot line from the 1960s. So everything is from him on here.
Ramsey Russell: That’s pretty cool.
Dale Bordelon: It’s a memory decoy, lanyard, I mean. And this is a single reed duck call that I made. I’m going to hunt it this year with a memory of him. Little stuff like that’s another thing about hunting. You get to share your memories and the bond with him like this.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I guarantee you man. We talked about that last week, it’s very important. I like that kind of stuff. Tell me about this old shotgun behind you?
An Old Pump Shotgun with a Lot of Memories
I find myself prowling around and looking for a few of those old iconic shotguns, and I’m not looking for something to put up and keep pretty, I’m looking for a gun that’s got a history and use.
Dale Bordelon: Man, this is an old gun here. I used to shoot a lot of old guns in the 70s. Listen to this, listen how good this sounds. You hear that?
Ramsey Russell: Old pump shotgun.
Dale Bordelon: Listen to its trigger.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a hammer. You know, I’ve never shot a shotgun that had a hammer that got pushed back and chucked it.
Dale Bordelon: Listen to the pretty noise it makes. Every time I shoot a duck and I pull it back, man, it’s smooth.
Ramsey Russell: What is that?
Dale Bordelon: This is Winchester 1897. That was the gun made before the Marlin 12. Well, in 1888 Marlin came out with their own version of the hammer.
Ramsey Russell: It is a Marlin?
Dale Bordelon: It’s a Marlin. This one I got was made in 1908. But they started 1888. I’ve never shot these guns because I shot my 8-70s. But now with Boss Shells I’m retiring to bring them about the blind, get them in commission and I’m having a ball with them, man.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve done the same thing and Lee Kjos, Brandon, and I have talked about this too. You know, a lot of these old safe queens, you cannot, cannot shoot still shot through. And I grew up shooting lead, my folks grew up shooting two and three quarter inch guns. And I’m assuming you’ve shot some birds with this gun since Boss has been out. But Boss Shot Shells has just brought this all back in the era. I mean it’s all made a hit, and it’s like man, these are incredible guns. And I remember my grandfather, I remember my dad and uncle talking about how my grandfather was a great shot. I remember as a little boy seeing him shooting the dove field, I don’t remember him missing. I’m sure he did, but I don’t remember it much. As I started shooting recently these old guns of his, and that era of gun, I realized those old guys were good shots because they shot a lot but those guns just threw a better pattern. I think that unless you do a lot of work on something, you know, just right off the shelf of Walmart and you just ain’t going to get that pattern. Especially with steel shot. Any steel shot. You just ain’t going to get that kind of pattern.
Dale Bordelon: Well that steel shot. If you’re on the water, it looks like it’s hanging all over.
Ramsey Russell: It’s got a real coarse pattern. It doesn’t have the energy when it hits them.
Dale Bordelon: That’s right.
Ramsey Russell: Is that a little bit – about 28 or 30 inch barrel?
Dale Bordelon: This one’s a 30.
Ramsey Russell: With a full choke?
Dale Bordelon: Full choke. I’m going to knock some mallards down. We didn’t kill a lot of mallards this year. But this little baby done the trick man, you talk about fun. I got 1897 I used to, made in 1916. I use it pretty regular. I use both of them.
Ramsey Russell: I have found myself – I’ve got some old family guns like that – but I find myself prowling around and looking for a few of those old iconic shotguns, and I’m not looking for something to put up and keep pretty, I’m looking for a gun that’s got a history and use. I’ve got some family guns. My father, my uncle had a pair. When they were 8-9 years old my granddaddy gave him a pair of model 12, 12 gauges with consecutive serial numbers. And my dad, when he died, we tore the house apart looking, I’m assuming his wife, not my mother, but his wife got rid of it or did something with it or maybe he sold it. I don’t know. But, well we tore the house apart looking. And I’m bound and determined to find a gun to replace that because that was the gun before my grandfather gave me that old 1100. That’s what I shot. That was my introduction. That gunshot, he got that gun back in the 50s, and he shot it good in the late 80s. In the 50s, I’m telling you it was just a killing stick. And I’ve had real, real good luck shooting Boss Shot Shells with these old guns.
Dale Bordelon: So like you said, it brings another meaning to duck hunting. To me using these old guns it’s the same as the old calls. It’s like, I can picture my dad. I used my dad’s model 12 this year. He had not shot that gun since 1989, whatever the steel came out. I hunted with it this year. My grandpa died in 1964. I shot his gun this year. My brother has it because he’s the oldest grandchild. It’s not mine. But he brought it and I shot and I killed ducks with it. And you know the feeling – when I shot a duck with his old gun, it was like killing a 12 point with a rifle. The emotion is just unbelievable. To know he used to, he used to kill grosbec with that gun. And in the 1930s, well probably in 1930s-1940s, his neighbor had a little money. My grandpa was poor, he had one arm, he would get my grandpa 10 shells, paper shells and he had the little gun. And his name was Weidie, French Wilbert was his name. He said, we’ll give you 10 shells. I want five grow becks. The shot you miss is yours.
Ramsey Russell: What is it grosbec for anybody listening?
Dale Bordelon: It’s a night crown hair, yellow crown hair.
Ramsey Russell: Yellow-crowned Night Heron.
Dale Bordelon: The French people in this community was so poor in the depression. It’s a summer bird over here. And they called the back cross, that’s white Orvis. That means crooked bill back cross in French. That’s what they call them.
Ramsey Russell: I didn’t know what that meant.
Dale Bordelon: They ate them. They shot them hard and have it all summer. But they was not selling, it was them eating.
The History of Hunting is in its Past
You were introduced to hunting by your father or your grandfather who was introduced to hunting by their family.
Ramsey Russell: We’re talking about generations ago. That’s the way things were.
Dale Bordelon: Yeah and the old geezers would fool with them. They don’t go crazy with it. But my grandpa shot many birds with that old gun. So to use it this past year, it just brought back a lot of memories, and it’s a new meaning to duck hunt with these shells.
Ramsey Russell: I agree. You know, I broke out that old side by side gun this year and I broke out my grandfather’s Remington 1100 that I shot in high school, thought would be my only gun back in the day before steel shot came along. I put those little 2 and 3 quarter inch five balls copper plates in there, and just it shot better than I remember just a round barrel. But I tell you what, Forrest had never seen that gun. I mean he may have been digging through the safe and seen it, but he ain’t never shouldered, he ain’t never shot with it. And everybody knows me, and I travel a lot and when I go to these far flung countries, I don’t bring those old guns because if they break, I miss it all the way. They’re old guns, they’re family heirlooms. I shoot Benelli because it does work, I can make it run and it’s reliable. I mean when you’re 6800 miles from home, reliability matters most. But to break out these guns in my old stomping grounds and it’s like, I never really thought I wanted Forrest to see it and carry on. But he posted a picture on social media later and that was my granddaddy’s gun, that was his great granddaddy’s gun. And it all of a sudden took on a whole new meaning when he saw ducks die. It took on a whole new meaning about who he is.
Dale Bordelon: Sure. And the little time I spent with Forrest, he looks like he’s very sentimental.
Ramsey Russell: He is.
Dale Bordelon: And I think, and then a little age, I think he’s going to go that route, which is a very good way to go, man.
Ramsey Russell: He is. We got to. I said it last time too. I’ll say it again, the future of hunting lies in its past. We are an accumulation of our past. And to be able to connect to future generations – I mean anybody listening, I’m sure if they’ve got kids, they’re introducing their children to hunting. You were introduced to hunting by your father or your grandfather who was introduced to hunting by their family. And it’s something that – just the gift that keeps on giving.
Dale Bordelon: Exactly.
Ramsey Russell: I like that old shotgun Dale. We need the next time I hunt with you, you bring that shotgun, and I’m going to bring one of my old. I’ll bring some of my decoys, you bring some of yours, and we’ll just have a real old-school hunt.
Dale Bordelon: I hunt like that as often as I can.
Ramsey Russell: That’s kind of a tradition. Speaking of which, that is kind of a tradition I have seen on the Internet. I have seen, I guess it’s your opening weekend and kind of a ceremonious event for you.
Dale Bordelon: Yeah, I do that. I got my old overalls. Not most of them are handmade decoys. When the season opens I always have people that bring them so I use my regular decoys. When it starts smelling out and I see what I have, several places to hunt in the woods fields. Me and my boys we bought ourselves, I bought myself, that’s when I slip off and hunt them in old decoy. I use my cane call pretty often.
Ramsey Russell: You use your cane calls every time I’ve seen.
Dale Bordelon: All the time. And I use my boys’ Beast Calls. But the older I get the more, this is a more traditional call. I’m using it pretty much.
Ramsey Russell: But I’ve seen where you go out and you run the lanterns, your handmade decoys out of your homemade pirogue, pushing with your homemade paddles, and you push pull there.
Dale Bordelon: I’ll hunt with that old boat last year all the time mostly. I’ll leave it in the camp. That’s why I built it for. And if something happens, I’ll build another one I guess. I will keep going all the way. But these guns add to it when I pile that little dugout, you’re really looking at this sitting in the front just makes it, seals the deal. It makes the hunt so much special and no blind lying.
Ramsey Russell: We hunted out of –
Dale Bordelon: Let me tell you something about that. We used to hunt in years ago in the 70s, 80s and to the 90s. People make big blinds in the open. I’m talking about 6 ft wide, 16 ft long where you can put a whole boat in and you had a shooting deck. That was all over Louisiana.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve been on those little blinds, yep.
Dale Bordelon: Now that was good. But times change, you can’t kill ducks no more like that. We had a hard time in the 80s killing ducks Christmas on that. They see that object and we used to use old willow for years.
Ramsey Russell: Would you brush it up willow or you plant willow?
Dale Bordelon: No, we just go cut willow and just brush it. You know, we put a rope, but you get back and look at that and you know yourself that doesn’t match wild hunting. Wild hunting is all button woods and cypress, sticks out. So what I started doing, and I learned this from an old fella or two, you learn a lot from these old people. I started using oak lamps, you can use any kind of oak lamps. I cut my lamps November 1st, just before frost. Ducks in here opens about the 17th, around that time of the month. But the 1st November I cut and I put them on. Then I go pick moss all over and I put moss on and the vines. I got some vines now stored, cleaned up. Last year I had, every time I’m looking for that all over, if I see some of the ditch, I’ll pick it up. Vines is the most camouflage, natural camouflage in my opinion that you can put on a blind in the field, blind where I’ll hunt anywhere. Ducks are not scared of vines.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I’ve noticed too that you use a lot of Spanish moss?
Dale Bordelon: Russell, I moss that tree down when I’m hunting next to them, I put my blind against the tree. That’s another thing.
Ramsey Russell: You are right up next to that cypress tree?
Dale Bordelon: I’d moss that tree, coming across my blind up to the next cypress tree. So you’re looking at 20-30 ft of moss that is going, you can’t spot that blind. That blind, you’re looking at a 12 ft blind but you’ve got 30 ft of moss across. It’s a game changer to them ducks. They don’t know there is a blind right there. Everything looks too natural.
Ramsey Russell: Well, that’s number one thing. It blends in.
What Ducks Can You Hunt in Louisiana?
But we kill like 7 species at the hunt.
Dale Bordelon: So we’re killing ducks now. This year, the last weekend, me and David killed 12 ducks. You started the opening day with six wigeons and the rest was gray ducks and whatever teal and all.
Ramsey Russell: Is that most of the species you all shoot there? Is it gadwall and wigeon?
Dale Bordelon: Probably 70% is gray ducks, maybe 60%, then a lot of teal, not many wigeons. This year, we had a lot of wigeons for some reason. We killed about five times that we normally killed. They were the whole winter this year. Then mallards, there’s not many mallards no more, and it gets less and less it looks like. But we kill like 7 species at the hunt. If you want to shoot ringnecks and spoonbills, we have plenty of them.
Ramsey Russell: You know, me and Forrest, we’re going to shoot one if it comes over the decoy.
Dale Bordelon: My boys is the same way but last year they wanted to shoot, they were slow. I said don’t be shooting that, they killed two. We ended up killing 18 ducks and we had two spoonbills. And I said you see why I don’t shoot them? You could’ve had all good ducks. That’s why I don’t shoot them. As far as eating them, I ate them all my life. That’s not wrong with them when they are pretty with a white color and all. But you have that blind concealment – and I’ll tell you something else I learned.
Ramsey Russell: I was going to ask you this too. I noticed your tradition you’ve been hunting for three decades.
Dale Bordelon: Been hunting I think it would be 34 years this year.
Ramsey Russell: And I noticed like your brothers each have their blind. It’s like you all are a camp, your family is a camp 30-40 years old. But that’s your blind. We passed by your brother’s blind, he got that blind over there and your other brothers got a blind over yonder.
Dale Bordelon: Well my little nephew has a blind now but when I’m not hunting I’ll bring my nephews and his kids. I love to hunt with them. We hunt each other blinds if they want to. If I’m not there even if I’m there we hunt. But you know like opening weekend, you hunt your blinds, you have these certain blind.
Ramsey Russell: Who’s is the best?
Dale Bordelon: They’re all good, they’re different.
Ramsey Russell: I just put you on the spot in case one of your brothers is listening.
Dale Bordelon: They’re good hunters now.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, they are.
Dale Bordelon: But I’m going to tell you something that I do. I got my cypress blind, made out of cypress.
Ramsey Russell: I haven’t seen that yet.
Dale Bordelon: It’s like three ft diameter and I got it on a little, it’s an 8 x 8 floating dock.
Ramsey Russell: Was it up in the cypress? It’s in the woods?
Dale Bordelon: It’s on the edge of the woods. What I’m trying to say – it’s about 150 yards from my big blind. It’s a one man blind, warm as if you are going out with a pirogue. You know how ducks start cutting them blinds, and you put, say you’ve got 50 decoys, and you put six in about 100 yards, you get all the action? That’s what it’s for. And you talked about killing some ducks.
Ramsey Russell: Well, describe this blind to me. I think I know, like it’s part of the world where you’ve got a lot of cypress and I mean once you turn off 20, head south in Louisiana, everywhere you look, there’s a cypress tree on a bow somewhere and up in these breaks. But when they get real, real old, I mean it might just be a big old stump and we’re talking about, a big stump.
Dale Bordelon: Yeah, cypress were cut from the 1900s when they cut all this lumber, and it was just a hollow, you see, all over especially the basin. A duck likes a nice kind of a stump, nice like I have a dead tree, not kind of a stump. So I built this platform, it’s like three ft diameter out of cypress boards. That’s all my social media if you look at it, and I got a door in the back, a double swinging door. It’s on a floating pontoon, and I put water lilies and vines hanging where it looks like floating might. And I put vines on my cypress stump just hanging, and man, you talk about, you can’t tell us there. Then ducks come in line right there 10 ft from you.
Ramsey Russell: It’s made out of just pieces of cypress.
Dale Bordelon: Yeah. I made a frame out of 2 x 4 treated wood, it has got probably 9, I think at 9 different contours. And wood, I’d agree that was botched up, you can’t see a seam in it. It looks like a trunk. And with a table sort of cypress boards I got. And it’s a one man deal but it is very productive. My blind is good for south wind when it’s a big north wind, they like the line on that side of the lake. So when you’re going out in a big north wind – last year my boy and I heard ping, paw. You can hardly see good. He called me down and we killed six. And I leave them, I leave the pirogue over there. He just come on out, and I jump in, and I’ll go shoot my six – we are rotating in it. Well, I’m going to tell you like this, if you kill – if you try to kill 18-24 ducks in a blind – to me if you had some small blinds, you split up you could do a lot better. And we finally killed more ducks that way, and I’ll fix up them and the other one pretty soon to put in a cove. I’m spraying right now for water lilies, going to be productive.
Authentic Louisiana Cane Calls: Beast Calls
Nothing mechanical, no electricity. Just all handmade the whole way.
Ramsey Russell: Well Dale, I appreciate your time. I sure enjoyed visiting with you and I want to have to get back on here again.
Dale Bordelon: It’s a pleasure talking with you. I’m glad to be part of this.
Ramsey Russell: Tell anybody listening. How can they connect with you, your web page, and your social media? Because you’ve got a great social media feed. I follow you religiously.
Dale Bordelon: Buy your Beast Calls. I got a page on Facebook and if you want a duck call, if you want to talk, my number’s on there and you get all the information on there. Buy your Beast Calls.
Ramsey Russell: Buy your Beast Calls. And I’ve got some of your cane calls and I know plenty of folks who got some of your cane call. What’s the waiting time on the cane call?
Dale Bordelon: Well, it’s probably about a year and a half. A good year to year and a half. I hate to say it, but the reason why it’s all behind, I don’t have machinery and I choose not to have it to keep it authentic as possible.
Ramsey Russell: Nothing mechanical, no electricity. Just all handmade the whole way.
Dale Bordelon: And I’m going to tell you this, the other weekend as a Sunday. I made two sound boards that took me three hours and neither one was any good. I had to waste that afternoon. That’s what I’m saying, a lot of work goes through it. Most of the time I can do it. This is all behind. It’s hard to make a soundboard behind the song to a duck. Most of the time I could do it pretty good. But I had a bad day. So there’s a lot that goes into it.
Ramsey Russell: Folks I’ve seen this process last little bit, you start with a piece of cedar stump, you pull off the river, you chop it down into smaller pieces. I’ve seen you out there with a hatchet, with your little hand hatchet, like you chopping stove wood. Once you get it down to there, you start wheeling, then you run it through your pattern for the round different holes. And then you lay it on and start filing it.
Dale Bordelon: It’s a long process.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, 100% whole hand made, just like old times you grew up with.
Dale Bordelon: All behind. I don’t have – I could get it late tomorrow, I don’t look into it. I might not take off, I’ll be cheating my ancestors doing that. So the reason why I have a lot of people, about 400 people, I have a list and it’s just going to take a while. I want to thank everybody that wants a call and I’m very appreciative, I want to thank you all so much, and I’ll get to every one of you all in time. It just takes so long, as it’s a slow process.
Ramsey Russell: You’ve been listening to Mr. Dale Bordelon, buy old Beast Calls, Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana. Thank you all for listening to Duck Season Somewhere. See you next time.